Huge news about the Supreme Court of the United States is breaking on a couple of fronts today.
Earlier this week the Supreme Court offered a couple of different defenses of the 1st Amendment and religious liberty (though it wasn’t as strenuous a defense as I hoped it would be). However, today they announced what may have been the most important decision they’ve made in a long time. The Supreme Court handed down an opinion that essentially bars public sector unions from collecting (or stealing) “dues” money from nonmembers.
No longer will leftwing public sector unions be allowed to rob nonmembers of their hard-earned money to support their leftwing causes.
And while that news may be the most important Supreme Court ruling in years (there will be a lot of repercussions from this – specifically it means that Democrats have just billions of dollars in funding), there is a bit of news that is trumping the announcement of that ruling.
Justice Anthony Kennedy is retiring. He will step down from the court on July 31st.
Many of the liberal news organizations will memorialize Kennedy as a “conservative” jurist, but the truth is that he was more of a non-partisan moderate who issued his opinions based on the way he “felt.” While Kennedy may have sided more with the conservatives on the court than with the liberals, he often delivered opinions that could be seen as being at odds with other of his opinions. He was sometimes labeled as more of a libertarian, but even that misses the mark, as he often sided with the government against our civil liberties.
Kennedy will be remembered as a jurist of consequence – not for the opinions he wrote (like Scalia, who was an intellectual giant), but for being the deciding vote on some of the most divisive of issues over the last few decades.
Kennedy was appointed to his position by President Ronald Reagan and was always a thorn in the side of Republicans. He was a sad example of the truism that “Democrats always appoint liberals to the Supreme Court, and Republicans sometimes appoint conservatives.” Kennedy was no conservative, but he wasn’t a liberal either. He occupied an odd middle ground that only a moderate, unprincipled jurist could hold.
A Supreme Court vacancy will likely become a key issue in a midterm congressional election year, when control of the Senate is at stake.
That body will consider Trump’s latest high court nominee, requiring only a simple majority for confirmation. GOP leaders changed the rules when Gorsuch was being considered, to get rid of the 60-vote procedural filibuster threshold.
But Democrats are expected to try and transform the court opening into a broader political referendum on Trump’s leadership, and the future of social issues like immigration, gun rights and race.
Republicans, for their part, hope Kennedy’s replacement helps them in the November elections. Still, McConnell indicated he hopes for a vote in the fall.
Without Kennedy, the court will be split between four liberal justices who were appointed by Democratic presidents and four conservatives who were named by Republicans. Trump’s nominee is likely to give the conservatives a solid majority and will face a Senate process in which Republicans hold the slimmest majority, but Democrats can’t delay confirmation.
Fox News is right, and the fight over the next Supreme Court Justice could indeed swing voters from Democrat to Republican candidates as they consider whether or not they trust the Democrat candidates to support the President’s nominee.
This could become the most important moment of Trump’s first term.